March 7, 2021 –
The Drexel Dragons move on the the semifinal round of the CAA Tournament by defeating the College of Charleston Cougars 80 – 75. Four players for the Dragons scored in double figures led by Zach Walton who scored 17 points, 3 shy of his career-high, sinking 5 from the three-point line, a season-high.
The Dragons showed balance on the offensive end of the floor especially in the first half by making 61% of their shots (17 of 28). of those field goals 7 came from beyond the arc and 10 from inside the arc. Utilizing all of the floor kept the offense going.
“It was really effective,” Walton said about the balance on offense. “We’ve been working on that at practice, inside-out, and our transition offense as well. It showed today. It worked and we are just going to try and keep going with that and make adjustments if needed.”
Over the game Drexel converted 55.4%, 31 of 56, and were 11 of 18 from three-point land.
Drexel took a 41 – 29 lead into halftime. Charleston showed resilience making charges to get in proximity, but could not take the lead. Drexel was able to make the needed basket or the right play to hold the lead. In the regular season the games against Charleston got away. Not tonight.
“Experiences make you learn and grow,” said Drexel Coach Zach Spiker. “We reacted in a better, more veteran, more poised way as players. I credit our guys for recognizing a couple of things, sticking with it, and keep them off balance a couple of different ways.”
The Cougars pulled to within 56 – 50 with just under 12 minutes to play. Lamar Oden, Jr. answered for the Dragons with a three-pointer and a two-pointer to extend the lead back to 63 – 54. There was over two minutes to play as Charleston pulled to within 72 – 67 on a three-pointer by Zep Jesper, 3 of his game-high 27 points. Walton matched it with a triple of his own to restore the lead. Jesper hit another three-pointer to keep his team in the game. With under 30 seconds to go Walton missed a three, by James Butler corralled the critical offensive rebound that kept possession for Drexel and his free throw put the team up 6 with 18 seconds on the clock. Walton hit the big shot, Butler took down the key rebound.
“We tried to make our run, but we just didn’t have enough,” said Charleston Coach Earl Grant. “You could feel it in some of the things we were trying to run. We were a step slow. Defensively, we weren’t as tough as we could be. Drexel did enough to put us away with their shooting and executing. Drexel did what they needed to do to advance. It’s hard to advance this time of year.”
Camren Wynter had 16 for the Dragons as he drained half of his shots (7 of 14) and handed out a team-high 4 assists. T.J. Bickerstaff added 14 points and 8 rebounds tying his collegiate-best . Bickerstaff connected on fifty percent of his shots (5 of 10). Butler had 12 points and also took down 8 caroms.
Payton Willis scored 22 points for Charleston to go along with 4 assists.
Drexel plays Northeastern in the semifinal round on Monday. Another chance to learn and grow for the Dragons.
“We’re at March 8 and playing a semifinal game against a great team,” Spiker said. “The goal is to play your best basketball in March and have a chance to advance.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian